This paper is an analysis of the usage of amplifiers in the Chinese Learner English Corpus (CLEC). As a specific type of adverbs of degree, amplifiers, such as absolutely, really, and very, are considered to “express degrees of increasing intensification upwards from an assumed norm”. Kennedy (2003) further divides amplifiers into maximizers and boosters. This paper adopts his definition and categorization and uses the mutual information measure (MI) to examine the collocational usage of 23 amplifiers, including 7 maximizers and 16 boosters in CLEC.
In comparison with Kennedy’s (2003) study of 24 amplifiers in the British National Corpus (BNC), this paper studies Chinese Learners’ usage of amplifiers from three aspects: their most frequent pattern usages, the overuse, underuse and misuse of certain patterns, and possible causes for that. The major findings can be summarized as follows. Firstly, while Kennedy finds that most amplifier collocates are adjectives or participles in BNC, most amplifier collocates are verbs in CLEC. Secondly, while most amplifiers show clear preference to negative or positive collocates in Kennedy’s study, this paper has found similar preferences of some amplifiers and yet remarkably different preferences of others. In addition, the use of the 23 selected amplifiers is not only more limited but also more interchangeable in CLEC. This shows that learners not only lack the mastery of their usage but also lack the appropriate awareness of their preference in pattern usage. The conclusions we arrive at suggest that amplifiers are probably stored as single words in their memory so that learners are not able to use them appropriately in certain patterns.
Key words: amplifier, maximizer, booster